A (Mostly) Bug-Free Patio Party

One thing I love about summer is that we can have dinners out on our back patio.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

Tucked into the back corner of our garden, it’s a serene and private outdoor dining room – that is until the bugs find us.

When Pests Show Up for Dinner

Summer bugs are usually not a big problem here in the Pacific Northwest – especially compared to other parts of the U.S.  But this summer has been unusually hot and dry – and it seems that the mosquitos and wasps have been unusually pesky.

Allsop Home & Garden

Our dining room is small, so in summer I like to have dinner parties outside.  And since we had a little dinner party coming up, I thought I’d better search the internet to see how I could keep those pests away.

I came up with a combination of solutions from different sources and decided to give them a try.


One tip I found is that bugs, especially mosquitos, don’t like marigolds.

So the day before the party, as an experiment, I planted marigolds in clay pots and put them on our patio table while we ate dinner.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

It seems wasps and flies aren’t crazy about them either.  We were halfway through our salmon dinner before they found us – a small victory since wasps love salmon.

Other flowers and herbs can also be used to deter mosquitos, but some, such as lavender, would surely attract bees.  Speaking of which . . .

Avoid Using Floral Tablecloths

This tip is supposed to keep bees away from the table.  Actually I have never found bees to be a problem because real bees could not care less what we are eating.  If something that looks like a bee is hovering around or crawling on your food, chances are it’s really a wasp.

But bees are constantly searching for flowers, and they investigate anything that looks like a flower.  So I thought it would be best to keep outdoor table flowers to a minimum (except the marigolds) and avoid floral colors and patterns for the tablecloth.

Since muslin is inexpensive and, as far as I’m concerned, underrated, I decided to sew a muslin tablecloth.   I used a wide strip of burlap ribbon for a table runner.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

For our dinner party, we substituted our usual round patio table for this rectangular folding table since it accommodates more people.  The width of the muslin fabric was perfect for this table, and I didn’t even bother to hem the selvage edges, just the ends.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

So we had an understated tablescape not likely to attract those hardworking bees.

Our regular patio chairs were too large for the table so we used our vintage folding chairs.  With their burlap-looking seat fabric, they looked cute with the table setting.


Citronella Candles and Oil

These really seemed to work.  I put three citronella candles in a wide jar and also had a small citronella votive at each end of the table.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

We also set out a tiki torch that burned citronella oil.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

Dryer Sheets

Apparently this little trick is sometimes used by restaurants with outdoor dining areas.  So I tucked a couple of dryer sheets under the tablecloth.

Keep Food Covered

I did have a mesh food cover on hand in case I needed to cover the meat.  But I never did need it.  The combination of smells from the candles, the dryer sheets, and the marigolds must have confused the bugs enough to keep them away.

Success Even Without Traps

A few wasps did hover around a bit, but they didn’t stay long.  And even after dark, mosquitos were not a problem.

As an added precaution, we also set out a yellow jacket trap – the kind that uses a pheromone – but at the end of the night only a couple of bugs were in there.   Those traps can be unappetizing to look at during a dinner party.  Also, some wasps are actually beneficial as they keep certain predator insects in check.

Burkedecor.com is all new

So as another experiment, we had dinner out on the patio the following evening with everything except the trap – and we still were not pestered by bugs.

These tips might not work everywhere and every time, but so far so good on my back patio.  Do you have any secrets of your own for keeping bugs away from outdoor parties?

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used in this post.


A table setting that keeps pests away can still be romantic and fun.  I would love to try these options from Etsy.

amber candle blue candle burlap runner fence candle lace candle ruffled linen

Citronella Natural Soy Candle | Three-Wick Large Citronella Candle | Burlap Table Runners | Colorful Candle Holder with Citronella | Citronella 24-Ounce Candle |Ruffled Linen Tablecloth


Want some fresh ideas for your outdoor space?  Visit my new 2016 Summer Style Boards page.

2016 Summer Style Boards

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14 Replies to “A (Mostly) Bug-Free Patio Party”

  1. Your patio is gorgeous! And thanks for sharing these great tips! I knew that about Marigolds and have some in my pots. We usually don’t have much of a problem, but one night last week we tried to eat out under the pergola with two of our grands. Small wasps would not leave us alone. We ended up fixing our plates indoors and then eating out in the fire pit area where we had roasted our hot dogs. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  2. Your outdoor dining room is just gorgeous !
    And thanks for the tips – I’m a mosquito magnet – can’t sit out after sundown for even 5 minutes without a heavy concentration of DEET – even with marigolds everywhere – but what I’m most surprised about is the dryer sheets – I’d have thought the scent would attract them – HAVE to pin this post !
    Thanks so much for sharing – saw you over at Have a Daily Cup !

  3. I, too, love spending evenings outdoors especially at this time of year when the heat of summer is trailing away. I truly appreciate you little tips you shared and will definitely be giving them a try. Your little dining area is the most inviting and lovely setting I’ve seen in a long time.

  4. Yet another wonderful post! I very much enjoy reading your tips and also your trial and errors! – always lots to learn. Thanks Heidi 🙂

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